DETROIT (AP) – It didn’t take long for Pavel Datsyuk to make a return on Detroit’s investment.
Datsyuk scored 95 seconds into the game, assisted another goal several minutes later and the Red Wings went on to beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1 yesterday night in the opener for both teams.
“That’s why we wanted him back,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after making his debut behind the Red Wings’ bench. “He showed why a lot of people think he’s one of the top young players in the NHL.”
The 27-year-old center returned to Detroit for a $7.8 million, two-year contract last week after threatening to stay home and play in Russia for a second straight season.
“I’m happy to be back in Detroit,” he said.
Despite his late arrival, Datsyuk didn’t look rusty and seemed to mesh well with his teammates.
“The same players play,” he said. “I didn’t come to the camp, but it’s the same team. It’s a good start, not only for me, but for the team.”
A 2-1 game turned into a rout in the second period when Detroit scored three goals while St. Louis took just three shots, none of which got past Manny Legace, who needed to make a mere 13 saves.
“That was unacceptable,” said St. Louis’ Dallas Drake, whose only shot was in the third period. “We just refused to shoot the puck.”
Patrick Lalime allowed four goals on 24 shots before the Blues replaced him with Reinhard Divis midway through the second period.
“They have a good team, but we showed them too much respect,” Lalime said.
Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Mikael Samuelsson and Brett Lebda scored for the Red Wings, who still seem to have a lot of talent despite having to cut their payroll almost in half because of the NHL’s $39 million salary cap, a result of the lockout that cost last season.
Eric Brewer had a goal midway through the first period for the Blues, who will be challenged to extend the longest playoff streak in professional sports to 26 straight years after this season because their owners have put the streamlined team on the market.
St. Louis traded star defenseman Chris Pronger to Edmonton, allowed forward Pavol Demitra to leave as a free agent, and legendary defenseman Al MacInnis retired.
“It’s a new world,” Blues coach Mike Kitchen said.
The one-sided game didn’t provide much excitement, but Shanahan did with some feisty play in the third period.
After Keith Tkachuk knocked down Datsyuk and was called for roughing, Shanahan pounced on him and the two were in the middle of a scrum. Shanahan fought skate-to-skate with Jamal Mayers later in the period, sending the crowd into a frenzy.